Magrunner Preview (PS3)

It’s surprising that not more people have tried to capture a bit of Valve magic by doing their own take on Portal. The original puzzle-based game was so simple, so engaging, that it quickly rose to cult fame and eventually spawned a fully funded sequel. Magrunner, debut title of 3AM games (under the watch of Focus Home Interactive), doesn’t try to hide where its inspiration came from: Everything from the brightly lit rooms, the UI that just shows your focal device, to the fact that you need to figure out how to get from A to B… you’ve seen it all before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.

Magrunner, in case you didn’t get it from the title, is all about magnets. Portal had portals, Magrunner has magnets, simplez, and the mag-glove is your focal tool through-out the entire game. Certain objects in the game can be magnetised, and your glove can either give something a positive or a negative charge, and you have to combine this with a working knowledge of how magnets and magnetism actually works to solve the A-B puzzle. Where Portal would have you transitioning around the room by finding a good angle and an applicable surface, Magrunner seems more focused on objects and problems. There are cubes in the game that you can move around (yeah, I know), and you can place them either on the floor, on special pads or other surfaces that can be magnetised, even each other. You can even jump and stand on these cubes, and use them as a mode of transportation through the correct use of magnetism.

The phrase "Opposites Attract" literally doesn't apply to magnets. Remember that

Portal's strength was the rising complexity and challenge of the puzzles faced by the player over time, and so by extension this is going to be Magrunner’s strength as well. Whether or not you can do more things with Magnets than you can Portals remains to be seen. Portal did get a bit difficult towards the end, but once the ‘twist’ happened it became less about the puzzles and more about just getting to the end and fighting Glados. By the looks of things Magrunner won’t waver from its primary purpose so easily, even after you find out the ‘twist’ and start going to less shiny, more run-down areas of the game. One level we were shown was set in such a place, and whilst the exit was in plain sight, there was an obstacle that had to be overcome which involved a lot more wondering around and puzzling then you’d think. We found hidden areas you wouldn’t even suspect existed and all to get this one cube so you could do this thing with the other thing and leave the area.

Oh yeah I forgot to mention - you're in space

As mentioned above, Magrunner seems to use the environment a lot more when it comes to playing around with magnetism or “Mag-tech as it’s called in the game. Something completely original to Magrunner can be found in the form of Newton, your pet robotic dog who is your ever faithful companion. Newton can be magnetised like everything else, and what’s more you can tell him where to go, allowing you to get a bit more finesse when you manipulate certain objects. Apart from that though, there’s not a lot more to tell – we only saw three levels that showed of various concepts. It looks very slick – yet another Unreal 3 game using the engine to its full potential – although the early demo levels have a bit too much visual similarity to Portal for my liking. There’s a lot more colour though.

Magrunner is probably going to be received in one of two ways – either people will praise it for its genuinely unique take on the Portal formula with Magnetism, or they will lambast it for having so many similarities and not even trying to disguise them. 3AM and Focus are at least approaching this with the right attitude though – it’s not going to have a hefty price tag, it’ll be available over all major distribution platforms and it has around 45 levels for you tackle. Plus, the story seems quit contemporary, for anyone who cares about that kind of thing. All in all, this is going to be one of those interesting and quirky little arcade games that you enjoy picking up every now and then, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for this one. Magrunner is due out on PC (all major distributors), XBLA and the PSN Store in Q2 2013.

Most Anticipated Feature: Just seeing what the latter half of the game is like.

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